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Pennsylvania GOP Senate race likely heading for a recount

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Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary is almost certainly heading for a recount after the Associated Press said Friday it couldn’t project a winner because the margins were too tight.

TV personality and heart surgeon Mehmet Oz, backed by former President Donald Trump, edged out former hedge fund CEO David McCormick by 1,079 votes with 98% of the speaker’s reporting, likely triggering an automatic recount because the margin is less than 0.5% of the votes.

Unless McCormick concedes by noon Wednesday, the Pennsylvania State Department will formally order a recount that must begin no later than June 1 and be completed by noon June 7, with results likely released the next day.

Each county must recount ballots using a different method than originally used, which could be by hand or another type of device, State Department spokeswoman Grace Griffaton said in a E-mail. Candidates and a lawyer will be able to observe the recount, she said.

Oz and McCormick have been locked in a bitter and noxious race for weeks, with Trump throwing his support behind another TV celebrity he says he’s known for years while others aligned with Trump like Sen. Ted Cruz (R -Texas) and former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo backed McCormick.

They are both vying for the chance to keep incumbent Sen. Patrick J. Toomey’s seat in the hands of the GOP. The Republicans must keep their column’s seat if they hope to regain the majority in the Senate. In the final weeks of the race, there were concerns about the arrival of a third candidate, Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator who has made controversial statements about Muslims and gay people. This caused Trump and Fox News host Sean Hannity to denounce his lack of “rigorous verification”. Barnette finished in third place, with around 87,000 votes behind McCormick on Friday night.

Trump urges Oz to “declare victory” before the vote count is complete in Pennsylvania.

Because the race was so close, pending mail-in ballots from overseas, as well as military and absentee ballots that always take longer to count because Pennsylvania does not allow them to be opened before day of the ballot, have taken on more importance.

After Tuesday’s ballot, Trump, echoing his 2020 rhetoric, began casting doubt on the results, suggesting that the mail-in ballots were somehow fraudulent and that Oz should declare himself the winner.

Neither campaign has echoed Trump’s voter fraud allegations, and there is no evidence of wrongdoing. Trump and his allies have sought to discredit mail-in ballots, which have become a more common way to vote as a precaution.

Both campaigns this week have been optimistic about their chances of winning. McCormick, Oz and their alternates have all publicly declared they will be in the lead once all the ballots are counted.

“The facts show that the counting of valid absentee ballots is very likely to put @DaveMcCormickPA leading the PA Senate race. This is great news for Pennsylvania and for America,” Pompeo tweeted Thursday.

There are about 15,000 ballots left to count, said a GOP operative associated with the McCormick campaign who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss next steps. The McCormick campaign has brought together hundreds of volunteers and attorneys across the state in all 67 counties to observe the counting of the remaining votes and prepare for the recount.

In an additional twist, a federal appeals court in Philadelphia ruled on a case unrelated to the Senate primary that undated mail-in ballots can be counted. State law dictates that voters must sign and date the outer envelope, and ballots that have not been rejected.

McCormick’s associate said the campaign plans to alert all counties of the court’s decision, which could mean thousands of ballots that would otherwise have been discarded will now be counted.